At an intersection in a shady part of town where dark immigrants and refugees of foreign disturbances crept in weird tracery among the long sunset shadows, a popular family owned phô joint named the Flyin’ Bowl recently found itself with new competition. Just over the bridge that spanned a tight bundle of Santa Fe railroad tracks, this rival had the same menu, the same recipes, even the same name (the Fly in Bowl) and members of the same family steering the enterprise. Tommy Ruangsawat’s sister had manipulated the matriarch of the family into giving her blessing to an expanded operation of sorts. The remainder of the family wrote the sister off in disgust. She kept a tighter ship, a cleaner ship, and that’s why Delilah chose the Fly in over the Flyin’. And it’s usually less crowded, she said as they sat down at a table that soon revealed an unruly short leg, and Tommy has a bit of a crush on me.
Delilah’s five feet of dark hair and Asian lips settled and her eyes finally met his and he became acutely cognizance of his very precarious position. She’s way smarter than you, Poole had told him, she’s the smartest person in any room she walks into. That’s a reason not to try? isn’t that the very reason to try? Poole had given him a comic gesture of disregard.
You fuckin with the phô? she asked him with a spasm of Groucho brow and her perfect grin.
And there are some things I won't tell you, she whispered, her eyes releasing their tethers and wandering from his face. Like what? It won't be that easy, dude. It's been that easy so far. I decide how easy it is. A rush of regret rattled him and he sighed before he could stop himself. He reclined against the broken springs in the couch and wished he'd never heard her voice, touched her neck, tasted the inside of her ear. When she found him again, the shine in his eyes had fizzled and she left him sitting in the boiling mix of smoke and conversation. The tonnage of jeunesse dorée began gelling and coagulating, growing thicker, expanding through the doorways and creeping under the furniture, replacing the air, devouring his focus. Afraid one of these punks had drugged his whiskey, he set the tumbler on the cluttered table that had been pestering his knees and he stood straight into the invisible ooze and he breathed it deeply and a malevolent rush traversed him like a closing zipper. He even heard it. An ascending metallic rip punching through the top of his skull. A large vase fell and shattered in his wake through the ooze and the gleam, the shapes of young breasts under logos on T-shirts, yards of inconceivably clean teeth. He discovered himself gripping a balcony rail. A crisp breeze was dragging the ocean air through the streets where the traffic roared. The harsh halogen beams strafed his perch as they peaked the hill in the distance below him, chilling him with each direct hit. He closed his eyes and dropped his head forward to the rail. A low dull vibration massaged the cold steel against his forehead then faded, soothing his vertigo as it went. She was standing behind him when he realized he had no clue how long he had been on the balcony. How did you think this was going to work? He rocked his brow temple to temple on the metal. I don’t know, he told her. How old are you again? You know how old I am. Well, you’re acting like a child, dude. I’m fine. We both got laid. Yeah, we did. We might get laid again. Okay. And your wife might not find out. Uh-huh. Chill the fuck out. She went silent. And then she was gone. The thought of her skin against his or the freshness of her breath or the heat he had fingered between her young buttocks never crossed his mind as he gathered a deep breath and shook off the remaining globs of ooze and swung each of his legs in turn over the rail and jumped the distance from the balcony to the roof of her BMW which belched concave as he landed, his ankle curling and popping beneath him then he limped into the night pleading with the gods of minor injuries that his joint wasn’t broken.
Let’s talk about something that I’ve found many anarchists are reluctant to engage. Compromise. In the pie-in-the-sky circles of political anarchism, compromise strikes many as a bowing down, resignation. Destruction of the state is non-negotiable. Laws of any kind are non-negotiable. Authority is non-negotiable. This is a fault. To proclaim a moral prohibition of negotiation is to ignore the complexity of morality all together. I argue that negotiation and compromise are the only way to reach consensus on modern morality. Compromise is the fruit of empathy. Compromise is the path to the truth.
I am a pragmatic idealist in that I know that compromise is the road to agreement. I have more faith in anarchism as a personal philosophy than most Christians or Jews or Muslims do in their respective ideologies. I know that in the future, the clear-headed practicality of individuals will win over the dogmatism of religion, capitalism, and statism. But this is not the future. We do not yet live in an age when deep critical thinking is the foundation of individual points-of-view. Cultural and historical biases cloud certain truths. For instance, as I’ve said before, I firmly believe that society has virtually no need for municipal armies but I recognize others' opinion that we do. I would compromise with a model of smaller, highly paid, highly trained, demilitarized police forces. I am not so ignorant of other peoples’ fears and concerns that I forbid police presence on our streets. As with any compromise, it would be a step toward the ultimate goal of removing them all together.
What is a single Texan’s life worth? Or a Louisianan? What is the value of a Floridian’s life? A Tennessean?
Monetary values are always the goto measurement but it’s always a stupid, clumsy measurement. One thing the monetary system does well is it establishes a standard. For a long time now the US dollar has been the preferred currency for international transactions (because it’s generally stable) and you can measure other currency values against it. Let’s try it with lives…
Is a Texan’s life worth more or more valuable than a Californian’s? Is a Floridian’s life more valuable than an Alaskan’s? Is this working? Maybe if we went by region. Is a Southern life less valuable than a New Englander’s? Are the lives of people on the west coast more precious than those of the Mid-West?
This still isn’t working. Fuck it. Let’s see if we can standardize the value of a human life by the same stick we use to value currency. With its record of stability following the Civil War, i.e. WWI, WWII, the Cold War, U.S. lives might work as a standard, right? Are U.S. lives worth more than German lives? Are U.S. lives more or less valuable than Liberian lives? Spaniards? Ukrainians?
Here’s why the question “whose life matters more?” does (and doesn’t) matter. Two dozen U.S. governors are refusing to allow Syrian refugees through their borders. Let’s leave the fact that U.S. law (both through legislation and judicial precedent) forbids this sort of refusal. As an anarchist, I hate arguing on the side of law, especially if there’s no need. These politician/reality stars are amplifying the death rattle of the Tea Party Conservative, the last host of the parasitic Christian Right. They have effectively told their constituents that it’s okay to say that Western lives hold more value than Syrian lives. In fact, if we roll with the conservative U.S. governors’ implied exchange rate and Obama’s pledge number for asylum, 126 Western lives equal 10,000 Syrian lives. Unfavorable, to say the least.
It gets worse.
River of Blood, a novel about anarchism, atheism, racism, violence, family, and corruption.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.